Plaintiff’s expert witness Dr. Sonny Bal will not testify in litigation that Nexium causes bone fractures, according to a ruling by the California Court of Appeal. He had also been excluded in 2014 in simultaneous federal litigation involving Nexium by other plaintiffs.
However, Dr. Bal has been successfully admitted as a plaintiff’s expert witness in Zimmer NexGen Knee Implant Products Liability Litigation in federal court in Illinois (see below).
While he is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in hip and knee replacements, Dr. Bal lacked any special expertise in epidemiology and the metabolism of proton pump inhibitors (PPI) like Nexium, according to the California court. Jolena Wilson v. McKesson Corp, No. B266990, California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Divison Three.
Summary judgment upheld
The ruling affirmed summary judgment for the defense in the case of 204 plaintiffs who sued AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals and McKesson Corporations for negligence, fraud and products liability. The plaintiffs alleged that ingestion of Nexium causes bone deterioration, osteoporosis, or bone fractures.
Dr. Bal was the sole expert on causation for the plaintiffs. Dr. Bhajanjit Sonny Bal, MD, JD, MBA, is a Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Missouri School of Medicine in Columbia, MO. He regularly treats bone fractures but does not have a specialty in epidemiology, bone biology, bone biology, endocrinology, gastroenterology, vitamin and mineral metabolism and how PPIs might compromise calcium intake.
“Dr. Bal never prescribed Nexium or any other PPIs, nor did he study the impact of PPIs on bones. Dr. Bal admitted he did not understand how proton pump inhibitors compromised calcium intake, and did not know how they were metabolized. When asked about the particulars regarding how PPIs could cause bone deterioration, Dr. Bal conceded at least 10 times that he would defer to “experts,” specifically a gastroenterologist, an epidemiologist, or an endocrinologist,” the court says.
“In short, Dr. Bal simply read epidemiological studies in preparation for this litigation and summarized what he thought such studies said.”
Meanwhile, plaintiffs who suffered kidney damage have filed a motion for the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) to create a new MDL 2757 in Louisiana to consolidate dozens of lawsuits nationwide filed against manufacturers of PPI heartburn medicines.
They allege that as a result of ingesting a PPI for gastric acid-related conditions, they have been diagnosed with kidney injuries including acute interstitial nephritis (AIN), chronic kidney disease (CKD), and renal failure, also known as end-stage renal disease (ESRD).
Plaintiffs’ counsel have more than 5,000 Proton-Pump Inhibitor cases under investigation, with nearly 100 PPI cases will be filed in the coming weeks, according to plaintiff’s attorney Paul J. Pennock of Weitz & Luxenberg, P.C. in New York, NY.
Defendants include Takeda Pharmaceuticals USA, AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals LP, Pfizer, Inc., and The Procter & Gamble Company. The products in question include Nexium, Prilosec, Protonix, Prevacid and Dexilant.
Zimmer Knee Implants
A federal judge overseeing the Zimmer NexGen Knee Implant Products Liability Litigation admitted Dr. Bal as a plaintiff’s causation expert whose opinion is that the company’s warning labels and instructions failed to warn adequately about the risk of failure for obese patients.
US District Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer rebuffed a defense motion under Rule 702 to exclude Dr. Bal in Beverly Goldin v. Zimmer Inc., Docket No. 11 C 5468.
There are 500 lawsuits filed against Zimmer in MDL No. 2272 in the Northern District of Illinois. Separately, Zimmer is facing 463 lawsuits in IN RE: Zimmer Durom Hip Cup Products Liability Litigation in MDL 2158 before U.S. District Judge Susan D. Wigenton in the District of New Jersey.
“Dr. Bal is sufficiently qualified to offer his opinions in this case and that those opinions are not so unreliable that the jury should not consider them,” the court said. “There are disputed issues of material fact concerning the adequacy of Defendant’s warnings and their role in causing Plaintiff’s injury. Those issues should be resolved by a jury.”